Public relations professor Tom Watson has said that measuring the effectiveness of PR will be increasingly focused on Return on Investment (ROI).
Professor Watson, only the second professorial appointment in the field of PR in the UK, was discussing the historical evolution of measuring PR effectiveness in his inaugural lecture at Bournemouth University.
Reflecting on the functional changes to have impacted on methods to evaluate PR, Professor Watson suggesed that ‘we’ve seen PR change from a holistic organisational strategy to a communication function’ and ‘seen the separation of PR publicity from organisational communication’. This has resulted in basic methods for measuring marketing-oriented PR, but more sophisticated use of communication scorecards and ROI in organisational PR.
Professor Watson acknowledged that the Barcelona Declaration of Measurement Principles has moved the PR industry closer to more consistent global measurement standards with a greater concentration on outcomes rather than the numerical measurement of media results.
‘We’ve moved a long way from the small cuttings agencies of 50 to 100 years ago and into a major international service sector that monitors and evaluates PR activity on a continuous basis. The Declaration is now the benchmark for PR practice around the world’, he suggested. Organisations are increasingly concerned with how the outcomes of PR campaigns and programmes weigh up against the investment and communication objectives.
It is important to remember though, Professor Watson warned, that practitioners must avoid relating the value of PR to advertising value equivalents. ‘This leads to misleading data and subsequent poor judgements on strategy and tactics,’ he added.
Professor Watson started in corporate PR in 1978 before setting up a consultancy business in 1984. He gained his Doctor of Philosophy for research into the measurement of PR activity in 1995 and was elected as chairman of the UK’s Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) for 2000-2002. He is also chair of the International History of Public Relations Conference which was held for the first time at Bournemouth University in July 2010.
The lecture is available on YouTube in two parts: